When DeMeco Ryans thinks about Andre Johnson and his Hall-of-Fame-worthy NFL career, the first word that comes to mind for the Texans first-year coach – practice.
"I can count on one hand how many times I've seen Andre drop a ball at practice," Ryans said. "His competitiveness, his attention to detail, his work ethic – it was second to none."
Johnson once again is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and looks to be a finalist in January for a third-straight year, making him one step closer to Canton, Ohio.
He played 12 seasons with the Texans and is the all-time leader in nearly every receiving category including career receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), receiving touchdowns (64) and 100-yard games (51).
For six of those seasons, Ryans and Johnson were teammates starting in 2006 when Ryans was drafted out of Alabama.
As Ryans was making the move from college football to the NFL, he got to see Johnson work in practice but then carry that over to the next game.
"I just remember time after time, going into games where they would have two, three guys on Andre," Ryans said. "Everybody knows the ball is going to Andre, and it didn't matter. He's still going up, making big time play after play after play, and he's truly deserving for the type of player he is."
Johnson finished his career with 1,062 catches for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns. He was a four-time All-Pro selection (2006, 2008-09, 2012) and seven-time Pro Bowler (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014).
But his Hall of Fame credentials go beyond what he accomplished on the field.
In 2003, the Andre Johnson Foundation was created. One of the annual events that he hosted was a toy shopping spree at a Toys "R" Us for at-risk children and their siblings around the holidays. The children would have 80 seconds to put as much as they could into a cart.
"Everything that Andre has done in the community here in Houston, Andre has inspired me to get to work in the community of Houston," Ryans said. "I remember being here as a rookie and seeing Andre and the work that he did, it inspired me. If Andre is doing it, I've got to fall in line. I need to start doing something in the community as well."
On top of how Johnson was a teammate, unrecoverable by opposing defenses and serving as an ambassador to the community, the final piece of Ryans' case for Johnson to be enshrined – his impactfulness.
"He's been a great friend, and a leader, and a guy I've always looked up to as soon as I stepped in this building, because you saw the way he worked," Ryans said. "But then you see just how great of a friend he is, how great of a teammate he is. Anything you ever need, Andre is there for all of his teammates.
"So, he is deserving of the Hall of Fame for sure. It's not the Super Bowl and all the playoffs, but you talk about one player who has impacted the organization better than anybody else, it's Andre Johnson and his impact on the organization here."